The Union Stew 5/7

Dear Hamline Colleagues –

As Spring Semester 2015 race toward its conclusion, I’m writing to extend a special invitation to a meet and greet reception with your adjunct colleagues.

On Wednesday, May 13, we’ll gather at Hamline Church, right across the street from campus (1514 Englewood Ave.). Drop by anytime you can during these three windows: 9:00-10:30 a.m., 11:30-1:00 p.m.; or 2:30-4:00 p.m. We’ll be in the Green Room. Enter the church building through the office doors off the alley, then look for signs. We’ll provide light refreshments.

THIS IS A BIG DEAL. Please try to come!

Sure, it’s the end of the semester, which provides both reasons to celebrate but also to feel rushed. But this is really important. Since last fall your bargaining team has met fourteen times for negotiations. Together, the five faculty members who bargain on your behalf have spent over 250 (volunteer!) hours at the bargaining table. That doesn’t count the hours spent preparing to negotiate, drafting and co-editing proposals, and preparing our remarks. Or the hours spent by Carol Nieters, our union rep, or Haley and Nicki, the other union staffers who support us.

A lot of time and effort has gone into our negotiations this past year, and we’d like the opportunity not just to celebrate the semester’s end but also to update you on our efforts. Please come!

We’ve reached tentative agreements now on almost all of the non-economic articles in the contract, which means we’re nearly ready to begin negotiations over benefits and salary. And that means it is more important than ever to have the full force of our unit standing with us.

A couple of stark observations:

1. Thus far, our unionization has probably gained more for adjuncts at other Twin Cities schools than for us. While we may well see real improvements ourselves under a signed contract, until we actually sign it, Hamline is legally required to maintain the status quo at the time of our union vote. Meanwhile, Augsburg, Macalester, and St. Thomas have all made efforts to address adjunct faculty dissatisfaction—and they have done so, at least in part because we at Hamline successfully unionized. Our efforts have already improved conditions for others!

2. While our negotiations have moved forward at a slow but steady pace all year, there is no question that we—the adjunct faculty bargaining team—have been ready to move more quickly than the administration. We have consistently proposed more dates for bargaining than the administration has accepted, and we have been pressing to move forward into economic matters for some time now. Of course, Hamline University has been in significant transition this year, but it is also clear that the administration is less eager to reach a contract than we are. That may not be surprising, but it remains a disappointment, because we have very eloquently set our bargaining within the scope of helping Hamline to better realize its mission and vision.

Here’s the bottom line. The administration hopes at this point that you will look at other schools, see their (relative) progress, and wonder, “what has the union gained for me?” And while nine to twelve months is NOT an unusually long time to negotiate a first contract, nonetheless as our negotiations wind on at a pace that has been clearly slowed down by the administration, they hope that you’ll lose your resolve and that your support for your bargaining team and for the union as a whole will fray.

But listen, your team has bargained eloquently thus far. We have done you proud and then some. Our union representatives have been both diligent and passionate on our behalf. We’ve been pressing forward toward a contract that values the role we play in teaching students at Hamline and that brings our treatment into line with the university’s vision and values. We’ve been pressing forward toward a partnership with the administration that can exemplify what is possible in the changing terrain of higher education.

We need your solidarity in these next months more than ever. If we stand together, we stand to win. Not just for ourselves, but also for our students, for Hamline, and for higher education as a whole.

I know that the long months of waiting are not easy, but we stand right now—we teach our classes in these closing weeks of the semester—on the arc of the universe, and it bends in the direction of justice.

So, PLEASE, whether you’re already on campus on Wednesday or need to make a special trip, PLEASE drop by Hamline Church. We unionized last spring precisely so we could be where we are today this spring. Let’s be here together.

We’ll have light refreshments, information on two union events this summer (St. Paul Saints game in June and MN Zoo day in August), further updates on our negotiations—including how you can help us press forward at this critical juncture—and, best of all, free refills on hope.

I hope to see many of you on Wednesday!

David Weiss
Religion Department
Steward for Hamline Adjunct Faculty Union, SEIU Local 284


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